Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Queechy by Susan Warner

Part 5 out of 18

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 2.0 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

again to his face in silence.

"How do you like living in Paris?" said he. "You should know by
this time."

"I like it very much indeed," said Fleda.

"I thought you would."

"I like Queechy better though," she went on gravely, her eyes turning
again to the square.

"Like Queechy better! Were you thinking of Queechy just now when I
spoke to you?"

"Oh no!"--with a smile.

"Were you going over all those horrors I have been distressing you with?"

"No," said Fleda;--"I _was_ thinking of them, awhile ago."

"What then?" said he pleasantly. "You were looking so sober I should like
to know how near your thoughts were to mine."

"I was thinking," said Fleda, gravely, and a little unwillingly, but Guy's
manner was not to be withstood,--"I was wishing I could be like the
disciple whom Jesus loved."

Mr. Carleton let her see none of the surprise he felt at this answer.

"Was there one more loved than the rest?"

"Yes--the Bible calls him 'the disciple whom Jesus loved.' That was John."

"Why was he preferred above the others?"

"I don't know. I suppose he was more gentle and good than the others, and
loved Jesus more. I think aunt Miriam said so when I asked her once."

Mr. Carleton thought Fleda had not far to seek for the fulfilment
of her wish.

"But how in the world, Elfie, did you work round to this gentle and good
disciple from those scenes of blood you set out with?"

"Why," said Elfie,--"I was thinking how unhappy and bad people are,
especially people here, I think; and how much must be done before they
will all be brought right;--and then I was thinking of the work Jesus gave
his disciples to do; and so I wished I could be like _that_
disciple.--Hugh and I were talking about it this morning."

"What is the work he gave them to do?" said Mr. Carleton, more and more

"Why," said Fleda, lifting her gentle wistful eyes to his and then looking
away,--"to bring everybody to be good and happy."

"And how in the world are they to do that?" said Mr. Carleton, astonished
to see his own problem quietly handled by this child.

"By telling them about Jesus Christ, and getting them to believe and love
him," said Fleda, glancing at him again,--"and living so beautifully that
people cannot help believing them."

"That last is an important clause," said Mr. Carleton thoughtfully. "But
suppose people will not hear when they are spoken to, Elfie?"

"Some will, at any rate," said Fleda,--"and by and by everybody will."

"How do you know?"

"Because the Bible says so."

"Are you sure of that, Elfie?"

"Why yes, Mr. Carleton--God has promised that the world shall be full of
good people, and then they will be all happy. I wish it was now."

"But if that be so, Elfie, God can make them all good without our help?"

"Yes, but I suppose he chooses to do it with our help, Mr. Carleton," said
Fleda with equal naivete and gravity.

"But is not this you speak of," said he, half smiling,--"rather the
business of clergymen? you have nothing to do with it?"

"No," said Fleda,--"everybody has something to do with it, the Bible says
so; ministers must do it in their way and other people in other ways;
everybody has his own work. Don't you remember the parable of the ten
talents, Mr. Carleton?"

Mr. Carleton was silent for a minute.

"I do not know the Bible quite as well as you do, Elfie," he said
then,--"nor as I ought to do."

Elfie's only answer was by a look somewhat like that he well remembered on
shipboard he had thought was angel-like,--a look of gentle sorrowful
wistfulness which she did not venture to put into words. It had not for
that the less power. But he did not choose to prolong the conversation.
They rose up and began to walk homeward, Elfie thinking with all the
warmth of her little heart that she wished very much Mr. Carleton knew the
Bible better; divided between him and "that disciple" whom she and Hugh
had been talking about.

"I suppose you are very busy now, Elfie," observed her companion, when
they had walked the length of several squares in silence.

"O yes!" said Fleda. "Hugh and I are as busy as we can be. We are busy
every minute."

"Except when you are on some chase after pleasure?"

"Well," said Fleda laughing,--"that is a kind of business; and all the
business is pleasure too. I didn't mean that we were always busy about
_work_. O Mr. Carleton we had such a nice time the day before
yesterday!"--And she went on to give him the history of a very successful
chase after pleasure which they had made to St. Cloud.

"And yet you like Queechy better?"

"Yes," said Fleda, with a gentle steadiness peculiar to herself,--if I had
aunt Lucy and Hugh and uncle Rolf there and everybody that I care for, I
should like it a great deal better."

"Unspotted" yet, he thought.

"Mr. Carleton," said Fleda presently,--"do you play and sing every day
here in Paris?"

"Yes," said he smiling,--"about every day. Why?"

"I was thinking how pleasant it was at your house, in England."

"Has Carleton the honour of rivalling Queechy in your liking?"

"I haven't lived there so long, you know," said Fleda. "I dare say it
would if I had. I think it is quite as pretty a place."

Mr. Carleton smiled with a very pleased expression. Truth and politeness
had joined hands in her answer with a child's grace.

He brought Fleda to her own door and there was leaving her.

"Stop!--O Mr. Carleton," cried Fleda, "come in just for one minute--I want
to shew you something."

He made no resistance to that. She led him to the saloon, where it
happened that nobody was, and repeating "One minute!"--rushed out of the
room. In less than that time she came running back with a beautiful
half-blown bud of a monthly rose in her hand, and in her face such a bloom
of pleasure and eagerness as more than rivalled it. The rose was fairly
eclipsed. She put the bud quietly but with a most satisfied air of
affection into Mr. Carleton's hand. It had come from a little tree which
he had given her on one of their first visits to the Quai aux Fleurs. She
had had the choice of what she liked best, and had characteristically
taken a flourishing little rose-bush that as yet shewed nothing but leaves
and green buds; partly because she would have the pleasure of seeing its
beauties come forward, and partly because she thought having no flowers it
would not cost much. The former reason however was all that she had given
to Mr. Carleton's remonstrances.

"What is all this, Elfie?" said he. "Have you been robbing your
rose tree?"

"No," said Elfie;--"there are plenty more buds! Isn't it lovely? This is
the first one. They've been a great while coming out."

His eye went from the rose to her; he thought the one was a mere emblem of
the other. Fleda was usually very quiet in her demonstrations; it was as
if a little green bud had suddenly burst into a flush of loveliness; and
he saw, it was as plain as possible, that good-will to him had been the
moving power. He was so much struck and moved that his thanks, though as
usual perfect in their kind, were far shorter and graver than he would
have given if he had felt less. He turned away from the house, his mind
full of the bright unsullied purity and single-hearted good-will that had
looked out of that beaming little face; he seemed to see them again in the
flower held in his hand, and he saw nothing else as he went.

Mr. Carleton preached to himself all the way home, and his text was a

Laugh who will. To many it may seem ridiculous, and to most minds it would
have been impossible, but to a nature very finely wrought and highly
trained, many a voice that grosser senses cannot hear comes with an
utterance as clear as it is sweet-spoken; many a touch that coarser nerves
cannot heed reaches the springs of the deeper life; many a truth that
duller eyes have no skill to see shews its fair features, hid away among
the petals of a rose, or peering out between the wings of a butterfly, or
reflected in a bright drop of dew. The material is but a veil for the
spiritual; but then eyes must be quickened, or the veil becomes an
impassable cloud.

That particular rose was to Mr. Carleton's eye a most perfect emblem and
representative of its little giver. He traced out the points of
resemblance as he went along. The delicacy and character of refinement for
which that kind of rose is remarkable above many of its more superb
kindred; a refinement essential and unalterable by decay or otherwise, as
true a characteristic of the child as of the flower; a delicacy that
called for gentle handling and tender cherishing;--the sweetness, rare
indeed, but asserting itself as it were timidly, at least with equally
rare modesty,--the very style of the beauty, that with all its loveliness
would not startle nor even catch the eye among its more showy neighbours;
and the breath of purity that seemed to own no kindred with earth, nor
liability to infection.

As he went on with his musing, and drawing out this fair character from
the type before him, the feeling of _contrast_, that he had known before,
pressed upon Mr. Carleton's mind, the feeling of self-reproach, and the
bitter wish that he could be again what he once had been, something like
this. How changed now he seemed to himself--not a point of likeness left.
How much less honourable, how much less worth, how much less dignified,
than that fair innocent child. How much better a part she was acting in
life--what an influence she was exerting,--as pure, as sweet-breathed, and
as unobtrusive, as the very rose in his hand. And he--doing no good to an
earthly creature and losing himself by inches.

He reached his room, put the flower in a glass on the table, and walked up
and down before it. It had come to a struggle between the sense of what
was and the passionate wish for what might have been.

"It is late, sir," said his servant opening the door,--"and you were--"

"I am not going out."

"This evening, sir?"

"No--not at all to-day. Spenser!--I don't wish to see any body--let no one
come near me."

The servant retired and Guy went on with his walk and his meditations,
looking back over his life and reviewing, with a wiser ken now, the steps
by which he had come. He compared the selfish disgust with which he had
cast off the world with the very different spirit of little Fleda's look
upon it that morning, the useless, self-pleasing, vain life he was
leading, with her wish to be like the beloved disciple and do something to
heal the troubles of those less happy than herself. He did not very well
comprehend the grounds of her feeling or reasoning, but he began to see,
mistily, that his own had been mistaken and wild.

His steps grew slower, his eye more intent, his brow quiet.

"She is right and I am wrong," he thought. "She is by far the nobler
creature--worth, many such as I. _Like her_ I cannot be--I cannot regain
what I have lost,--I cannot undo what years have done. But I can be
something other than I am! If there be a system of remedy, as there well
may, it may as well take effect on myself first. She says everybody has
his work, I believe her. It must in the nature of things be so. I will
make it my business to find out what mine is, and when I have made that
sure I will give myself to the doing of it. An Allwise Governor must look
for service of me. He shall have it. Whatever my life be, it shall be to
some end. If not what I would, what I can. If not the purity of the rose,
that of tempered steel!"

Mr. Carleton walked his room for three hours; then rung for his servant
and ordered him to prepare everything for leaving Paris the second day

The next morning over their coffee he told his mother of his purpose.

"Leave Paris!--To-morrow!--My dear Guy, that is rather a sudden notice."

"No mother--for I am going alone."

His mother immediately bent an anxious and somewhat terrified look
upon him. The frank smile she met put half her suspicions out of her
head at once.

"What is the matter?"

"Nothing at all--if by 'matter' you mean mischief."

"You are not in difficulty with those young men again?"

"No mother," said he coolly. "I am in difficulty with no one but myself."

"With yourself! But why will you not let me go with you?"

"My business will go on better if I am quite alone."

"What business?"

"Only to settle this question with myself," said he smiling.

"But Guy! you are enigmatical this morning. Is it the question that of all
others I wish to see settled?"

"No mother," said he laughing and colouring a little,--"I don't want
another half to take care of till I have this one under management."

"I don't understand you," said Mrs. Carleton "There is no hidden reason
under all this that you are keeping from me?"

"I won't say that. But there is none that need give you the least
uneasiness. There are one or two matters I want to study out--I cannot do
it here, so I am going where I shall be free."


"I think I shall pass the summer between Switzerland and Germany."

"And when and where shall I meet you again?"

"I think at home;--I cannot say when."

"At home!" said his mother with a brightening face. "Then you are
beginning to be tired of wandering at last?"

"Not precisely, mother,--rather out of humour."

"I shall be glad of anything," said his mother, gazing at him admiringly,
"that brings you home again, Guy."

"Bring me home a better man, I hope, mother," said he kissing her as he
left the room. "I will see you again by and by."

"'A better man!'" thought Mrs. Carleton, as she sat with full eyes, the
image of her son filling the place where his presence had been;--"I would
be willing never to see him better and be sure of his never being worse!"

Mr. Carleton's farewell visit found Mr. and Mrs. Rossitur not at home.
They had driven out early into the country to fetch Marion from her
convent for some holiday. Fleda came alone into the saloon to receive him.

"I have your rose in safe keeping, Elfie," he said. "It has done me more
good than ever a rose did before."

Fleda smiled an innocently pleased smile. But her look changed when he

"I have come to tell you so and to bid you good-bye."

"Are you going away, Mr. Carleton?"


"But you will be back soon?"

"No, Elfie,--I do not know that I shall ever come back."

He spoke gravely, more gravely than he was used; and Fleda's acuteness saw
that there was some solid reason for this sudden determination. Her face
changed sadly, but she was silent, her eyes never wavering from those that
read hers with such gentle intelligence.

"You will be satisfied to have me go, Elfie, when I tell you that I am
going on business which I believe to be duty. Nothing else takes me away.
I am going to try to do right," said he smiling.

Elfie could not answer the smile. She wanted to ask whether she should
never see him again, and there was another thought upon her tongue too;
but her lip trembled and she said nothing.

"I shall miss my good fairy," Mr. Carleton went on lightly;--"I don't know
how I shall do without her. If your wand was long enough to reach so far I
would ask you to touch me now and then, Elfie."

Poor Elfie could not stand it. Her head sank. She knew she had a wand that
could touch him, and well and gratefully she resolved that its light
blessing should "now and then" rest on his head; but he did not understand
that; he was talking, whether lightly or seriously, and Elfie knew it was
a little of both,--he was talking of wanting her help, and was ignorant of
the help that alone could avail him. "Oh that he knew but that!"--What
with this feeling and sorrow together the child's distress was exceeding
great; and the tokens of grief in one so accustomed to hide them were the
more painful to see. Mr. Carleton drew the sorrowing little creature
within his arm and endeavoured with a mixture of kindness and lightness in
his tone to cheer her.

"I shall often remember you, dear Elfie," he said;--"I shall keep your
rose always and take it with me wherever I go.--You must not make it too
hard for me to quit Paris--you are glad to have me go on such an errand,
are you not?"

She presently commanded herself, bade her tears wait till another time as
usual, and trying to get rid of those that covered her face, asked him,
"What errand?"

He hesitated.

"I have been thinking of what we were talking of yesterday, Elfie,"
he said at length. "I am going to try to discover my duty, and then
to do it."

But Fleda at that clasped his hand, and squeezing it in both hers bent
down her little head over it to hide her face and the tears that streamed
again. He hardly knew how to understand or what to say to her. He half
suspected that there were depths in that childish mind beyond his
fathoming. He was not however left to wait long. Fleda, though she might
now and then be surprised into shewing it, never allowed her sorrow of any
kind to press upon the notice or the time of others. She again checked
herself and dried her face.

"There is nobody else in Paris that will be so sorry for my leaving it,"
said Mr. Carleton, half tenderly and half pleasantly.

"There is nobody else that has so much cause," said Elfie, near bursting
out again, but she restrained herself.

"And you will not come here again, Mr. Carleton?" she said after a
few minutes.

"I do not say that--it is possible--if I do, it will be to see you,

A shadow of a smile passed over her face at that. It was gone instantly.

"My mother will not leave Paris yet," he went on,--"you will see
her often."

But he saw that Fleda was thinking of something else; she scarce seemed to
hear him. She was thinking of something that troubled her.

"Mr. Carleton--" she began, and her colour changed.

"Speak, Elfie."

Her colour changed again. "Mr. Carleton--will you be displeased if I say

"Don't you know me better than to ask me that, Elfie?" he said gently.

"I want to ask you something,--if you won't mind my saying it."

"What is it?" said he, reading in her face that a request was behind. "I
will do it."

Her eyes sparkled, but she seemed to have some difficulty in going on.

"I will do it, whatever it is," he said watching her.

"Will you wait for one moment, Mr. Carleton?"

"Half an hour."

She sprang away, her face absolutely flashing pleasure through her tears.
It was much soberer, and again doubtful and changing colour, when a few
minutes afterwards she came back with a book in her hand. With a striking
mixture of timidity, modesty, and eagerness in her countenance she came
forward, and putting the little volume, which was her own Bible, into Mr.
Carleton's hands said under her breath, "Please read it." She did not
venture to look up.

He saw what the book was; and then taking the gentle hand which had given
it, he kissed it two or three times. If it had been a princess's he could
not with more respect.

"You have my promise, Elfie," he said. "I need not repeat it?"

She raised her eyes and gave him a look so grateful, so loving, so happy,
that it dwelt for ever in his remembrance. A moment after it had faded,
and she stood still where he had left her, listening to his footsteps as
they went down the stairs. She heard the last of them, and then sank upon
her knees by a chair and burst into a passion of tears. Their time was
now and she let them come. It was not only the losing a loved and
pleasant friend, it was not only the stirring of sudden and disagreeable
excitement;--poor Elfie was crying for her Bible. It had been her
father's own--it was filled with his marks--it was precious to her above
price--and Elfie cried with all her heart for the loss of it. She had
done what she had on the spur of the emergency--she was satisfied she had
done right; she would not take it back if she could; but not the less her
Bible was gone, and the pages that loved eyes had looked upon were for
hers to look upon no more. Her very heart was wrung that she should have
parted with it,--and yet,--what could she do?--It was as bad as the
parting with Mr. Carleton.

That agony was over, and even that was shortened, for "Hugh would find
out that she had been crying." Hours had passed, and the tears were
dried, and the little face was bending over the wonted tasks with a
shadow upon its wonted cheerfulness,--when Rosaline came to tell her that
Victor said there was somebody in the passage who wanted to see her and
would not come in.

It was Mr. Carleton himself. He gave her a parcel, smiled at her without
saying a word, kissed her hand earnestly, and was gone again. Fleda ran to
her own room, and took the wrappers off such a beauty of a Bible as she
had never seen; bound in blue velvet, with clasps of gold and her initials
in letters of gold upon the cover. Fleda hardly knew whether to be most
pleased or sorry; for to have its place so supplied seemed to put her lost
treasure further away than ever. The result was another flood of very
tender tears; in the very shedding of which however the new little Bible
was bound to her heart with cords of association as bright and as
incorruptible as its gold mountings.

Chapter XV.

Her sports were such as carried riches of knowledge upon the stream of

Fleda had not been a year in Paris when her uncle suddenly made up his
mind to quit it and go home. Some trouble in money affairs, felt or
feared, brought him to this step, which a month before he had no definite
purpose of ever taking. There was cloudy weather in the financial world of
New York and he wisely judged it best that his own eyes should be on the
spot to see to his own interests. Nobody was sorry for this determination.
Mrs. Rossitur always liked what her husband liked, but she had at the same
time a decided predilection for home. Marion was glad to leave her convent
for the gay world, which her parents promised she should immediately
enter. And Hugh and Fleda had too lively a spring of happiness within
themselves to care where its outgoings should be.

So home they came, in good mood, bringing with them all manner of Parisian
delights that Paris could part with. Furniture, that at home at least they
might forget where they were; dresses, that at home or abroad nobody might
forget where they had been; pictures and statuary and engravings and
books, to satisfy a taste really strong and well cultivated. And indeed
the other items were quite as much for this purpose as for any other. A
French cook for Mr. Rossitur, and even Rosaline for his wife, who declared
she was worth all the rest of Paris. Hugh cared little for any of these
things; he brought home a treasure of books and a flute, to which he was
devoted. Fleda cared for them all, even Monsieur Emile and Rosaline, for
her uncle's and aunt's sake; but her special joy was a beautiful little
King Charles which had been sent her by Mr. Carleton a few weeks before.
It came with the kindest of letters, saying that some matters had made it
inexpedient for him to pass through Paris on his way home, but that he
hoped nevertheless to see her soon. That intimation was the only thing
that made Fleda sorry to leave Paris. The little dog was a beauty,
allowed to be so not only by his mistress but by every one else; of the
true black and tan colours; and Fleda's dearly loved and constant

The life she and Hugh led was little changed by the change of place. They
went out and came in as they had done in Paris, and took the same quiet
but intense happiness in the same quiet occupations and pleasures; only
the Tuileries and Champs Elysees had a miserable substitute in the
Battery, and no substitute at all anywhere else. And the pleasant drives
in the environs of Paris were missed too and had nothing in New York to
supply their place. Mrs. Rossitur always said it was impossible to get out
of New York by land, and not worth the trouble to do it by water. But then
in the house Fleda thought there was a great gain. The dirty Parisian
Hotel was well exchanged for the bright, clean, well-appointed house in
State street. And if Broadway was disagreeable, and the Park a weariness
to the eyes, after the dressed gardens of the French capital, Hugh and
Fleda made it up in the delights of the luxuriously furnished library and
the dear at-home feeling of having the whole house their own.

They were left, those two children, quite as much to themselves as ever.
Marion was going into company, and she and her mother were swallowed up in
the consequent necessary calls upon their time. Marion never had been
anything to Fleda. She was a fine handsome girl, outwardly, but seemed to
have more of her father than her mother in her composition, though
colder-natured and more wrapped up in self than Mr. Rossitur would be
called by anybody that knew him. She had never done anything to draw Fleda
towards her, and even Hugh had very little of her attention. They did not
miss it. They were everything to each other.

Everything,--for now morning and night there was a sort of whirlwind in
the house which carried the mother and daughter round and round and
permitted no rest; and Mr. Rossitur himself was drawn in. It was worse
than it had been in Paris. There, with Marion in her convent, there were
often evenings when they did not go abroad nor receive company and spent
the time quietly and happily in each other's society. No such evenings
now; if by chance there were an unoccupied one Mrs. Rossitur and her
daughter were sure to be tired and Mr. Rossitur busy.

Hugh and Fleda in those bustling times retreated to the library; Mr.
Rossitur would rarely have that invaded; and while the net was so eagerly
cast for pleasure among the gay company below, pleasure had often slipped
away and hid herself among the things on the library table, and was
dancing on every page of Hugh's book and minding each stroke of Fleda's
pencil and cocking the spaniel's ears whenever his mistress looked at him.
King, the spaniel, lay on a silk cushion on the library table, his nose
just touching Fleda's fingers. Fleda's drawing was mere amusement; she
and Hugh were not so burthened with studies that they had not always their
evenings free, and to tell truth, much more than their evenings. Masters
indeed they had; but the heads of the house were busy with the interests
of their grown-up child, and perhaps with other interests; and took it for
granted that all was going right with the young ones.

"Haven't we a great deal better time than they have down stairs, Fleda?"
said Hugh one of these evenings.

"Hum--yes--" answered Fleda abstractedly, stroking into order some old man
in her drawing with great intentness.--"King!--you rascal--keep back and
be quiet, sir!--"

Nothing could be conceived more gentle and loving than Fleda's tone of
fault-finding, and her repulse only fell short of a caress.

"What's he doing?"

"Wants to get into my lap."

"Why don't you let him?"

"Because I don't choose to--a silk cushion is good enough for his majesty.
King!--" (laying her soft cheek against the little dog's soft head and
forsaking her drawing for the purpose.)

"How you do love that dog!" said Hugh.

"Very well--why shouldn't I?--provided he steals no love from anybody
else," said Fleda, still caressing him.

"What a noise somebody is making down stairs!" said Hugh. "I don't think I
should ever want to go to large parties, Fleda, do you?"

"I don't know," said Fleda, whose natural taste for society was strongly
developed;--"it would depend upon what kind of parties they were."

"I shouldn't like them, I know, of whatever kind," said Hugh. "What are
you smiling at?"

"Only Mr. Pickwick's face, that I am drawing here."

Hugh came round to look and laugh, and then began again.

"I can't think of anything pleasanter than this room as we are now."

"You should have seen Mr. Carleton's library," said Fleda in a musing
tone, going on with her drawing.

"Was it so much better than this?"

Fleda's eyes gave a slight glance at the room and then looked down again
with a little shake of her head sufficiently expressive.

"Well," said Hugh, "you and I do not want any better than this, do
we, Fleda?"

Fleda's smile, a most satisfactory one, was divided between him and King.

"I don't believe," said Hugh, "you would have loved that dog near so well
if anybody else had given him to you."

"I don't believe I should!--not a quarter," said Fleda with sufficient

"I never liked that Mr. Carleton as well as you did."

"That is because you did not know him," said Fleda quietly.

"Do you think he was a good man, Fleda?"

"He was very good to me," said Fleda, "always. What rides I did have on
that great black horse of his!"--

"A black horse?"

"Yes, a great black horse, strong, but so gentle, and he went so
delightfully. His name was Harold. Oh I should like to see that
horse!--When I wasn't with him, Mr. Carleton used to ride another, the
greatest beauty of a horse, Hugh; a brown Arabian--so slender and
delicate--her name was Zephyr, ind she used to go like the wind, to be
sure. Mr. Carleton said he wouldn't trust me on such a fly-away thing."

"But you didn't use to ride alone?" said Hugh.

"Oh no!--and _I_ wouldn't have been afraid if he had chosen to take me
on any one."

"But do you think, Fleda, he was a _good_ man? as I mean?"

"I am sure he was better than a great many others," answered Fleda
evasively;--"the worst of him was infinitely better than the best of half
the people down stairs,--Mr. Sweden included."

"Sweden"--you don't call his name right."

"The worse it is called the better, in my opinion," said Fleda.

"Well, I don't like him; but what makes you dislike him so much?"

"I don't know--partly because uncle Rolf and Marion like him so much, I
believe--I don't think there is any moral expression in his face."

"I wonder why they like him," said Hugh.

It was a somewhat irregular and desultory education that the two children
gathered under this system of things. The masters they had were rather for
accomplishments and languages than for anything solid; the rest they
worked out for themselves. Fortunately they both loved books, and rational
books; and hours and hours, when Mrs. Rossitur and her daughter were
paying or receiving visits, they, always together, were stowed away behind
the book-cases or in the library window poring patiently over pages of
various complexion; the soft turning of the leaves or Fleda's frequent
attentions to King the only sound in the room. They walked together,
talking of what they had read, though indeed they ranged beyond that into
nameless and numberless fields of speculation, where if they sometimes
found fruit they as often lost their way. However the habit of ranging was
something. Then when they joined the rest of the family at the
dinner-table, especially if others were present, and most especially if a
certain German gentleman happened to be there who the second winter after
their return Fleda thought came very often, she and Hugh would be sure to
find the strange talk of the world that was going on unsuited and
wearisome to them, and they would make their escape up stairs again to
handle the pencil and to play the flute and to read, and to draw plans for
the future, while King crept upon the skirts of his mistress's gown and
laid his little head on her feet. Nobody ever thought of sending them to
school. Hugh was a child of frail health, and though not often very ill
was often near it; and as for Fleda, she and Hugh were inseparable; and
besides by this time her uncle and aunt would almost as soon have thought
of taking the mats off their delicate shrubs in winter as of exposing her
to any atmosphere less genial than that of home.

For Fleda this doubtful course of mental training wrought singularly well.
An uncommonly quick eye and strong memory and clear head, which she had
even in childhood, passed over no field of truth or fancy without making
their quiet gleanings; and the stores thus gathered, though somewhat
miscellaneous and unarranged, were both rich and uncommon, and more than
any one or she herself knew. Perhaps such a mind thus left to itself knew
a more free and luxuriant growth than could ever have flourished within
the confinement of rules. Perhaps a plant at once so strong and so
delicate was safest without the hand of the dresser. At all events it was
permitted to spring and to put forth all its native gracefulness alike
unhindered and unknown. Cherished as little Fleda dearly was, her mind
kept company with no one but herself,--and Hugh. As to externals,--music
was uncommonly loved by both the children, and by both cultivated with
great success. So much came under Mrs. Rossitur's knowledge. Also every
foreign Signor and Madame that came into the house to teach them spoke
with enthusiasm of the apt minds and flexile tongues that honoured their
instructions. In private and in public the gentle, docile, and
affectionate children answered every wish both of taste and judgment. And
perhaps, in a world where education is _not_ understood, their guardians
might be pardoned for taking it for granted that all was right where
nothing appeared that was wrong; certainly they took no pains to make sure
of the fact. In this case, one of a thousand, their neglect was not
punished with disappointment. They never found out that Hugh's mind wanted
the strengthening that early skilful training might have given it. His
intellectual tastes were not so strong as Fleda's; his reading was more
superficial; his gleanings not so sound and in far fewer fields, and they
went rather to nourish sentiment and fancy than to stimulate thought or
lay up food for it. But his parents saw nothing of this.

The third winter had not passed, when Fleda's discernment saw that Mr.
Sweden, as she called him, the German gentleman, would not cease coming to
the house till he had carried off Marion with him. Her opinion on the
subject was delivered to no one but Hugh.

That winter introduced them to a better acquaintance. One evening Dr.
Gregory, an uncle of Mrs. Rossitur's, had been dining with her and was in
the drawing-room. Mr. Schweden had been there too, and he and Marion and
one or two other young people had gone out to some popular entertainment.
The children knew little of Dr. Gregory but that he was a very
respectable-looking elderly gentleman, a little rough in his manners; the
doctor had not long been returned from a stay of some years in Europe
where he had been collecting rare books for a fine public library, the
charge of which was now entrusted to him. After talking some time with
Mr. and Mrs. Rossitur the doctor pushed round his chair to take a look at
the children.

"So that's Amy's child," said he. "Come here, Amy."

"That is not my name," said the little girl coming forward.

"Isn't it? It ought to be. What is then?"


"Elfleda!--Where in the name of all that is auricular did you get such an
outlandish name?"

"My father gave it to me, sir," said Fleda, with a dignified sobriety
which amused the old gentleman.

"Your father!--Hum--I understand. And couldn't your father find a cap that
fitted you without going back to the old-fashioned days of King Alfred?"

"Yes sir; it was my grandmother's cap."

"I am afraid your grandmother's cap isn't all of her that's come down to
you," said he, tapping his snuff-box and looking at her with a curious
twinkle in his eyes. "What do you call yourself? Haven't you some
variations of this tongue-twisting appellative to serve for every day and
save trouble?"

"They call me Fleda," said the little girl, who could not help laughing.

"Nothing better than that?"

Fleda remembered two prettier nick-names which had been hers; but one had
been given by dear lips long ago, and she was not going to have it
profaned by common use; and "Elfie" belonged to Mr. Carleton. She would
own to nothing but Fleda.

"Well, Miss Fleda," said the doctor, "are you going to school?"

"No sir."

"You intend to live without such a vulgar thing as learning?"

"No sir--Hugh and I have our lessons at home."

"Teaching each other, I suppose?"

"O no, sir," said Fleda laughing;--"Mme. Lascelles and Mr.
Schweppenhesser and Signor Barytone come to teach us, besides our
music masters."

"Do you ever talk German with this Mr. What's-his-name who has just gone
out with your cousin Marion?"

"I never talk to him at all, sir."

"Don't you? why not? Don't you like him?"

Fleda said "not particularly," and seemed to wish to let the subject pass,
but the doctor was amused and pressed it.

"Why, why don't you like him?" said he; "I am sure he's a fine looking
dashing gentleman,--dresses as well as anybody, and talks as much as most
people,--why don't you like him? Isn't he a handsome fellow, eh?"

"I dare say he is, to many people," said Fleda.

"She said she didn't think there was any moral expression in his face,"
said Hugh, by way of settling the matter.

"Moral expression!" cried the doctor,--"moral expression!--and what if
there isn't, you Elf!--what if there isn't?"

"I shouldn't care what other kind of expression it had," said Fleda,
colouring a little.

Mr. Rossitur 'pished' rather impatiently. The doctor glanced at his niece,
and changed the subject.

"Well who teaches you English, Miss Fleda? you haven't told me that yet."

"O that we teach ourselves," said Fleda, smiling as if it was a very
innocent question.

"Hum! you do! Pray how do you teach yourselves?"

"By reading, sir."

"Reading! And what do you read? what have you read in the last twelve
months, now?"

"I don't think I could remember all exactly," said Fleda.

"But you have got a list of them all," said Hugh, who chanced to have been
looking over said list of a day or two before and felt quite proud of it.

"Let's have it--let's have it," said the doctor. And Mrs. Rossitur
laughing said "Let's have it;" and even her husband commanded Hugh to go
and fetch it; so poor Fleda, though not a little unwilling, was obliged to
let the list be forthcoming. Hugh brought it, in a neat little book
covered with pink blotting paper.

"Now for it," said the doctor;--"let us see what this English amounts to.
Can you stand fire, Elfleda?"

'Jan. 1. Robinson Crusoe.' [Footnote: A true list made by a child of
that age.]

"Hum--that sounds reasonable, at all events."

"I had it for a New Year present," remarked Fleda, who stood by with
down-cast eyes, like a person undergoing an examination.

'Jan. 2. Histoire de France.'

"What history of France is this?"

Fleda hesitated and then said it was by Lacretelle.

"Lacretelle?--what, of the Revolution?"

"No sir, it is before that; it is in five or six large volumes."

"What, Louis XV's time!" said the doctor muttering to himself.

'Jan. 27. 2. ditto, ditto.'

"'Two' means the second volume I suppose?"

"Yes sir."

"Hum--if you were a mouse you would gnaw through the wall in time at that
rate. This is in the original?"

"Yes sir."

'Feb. 3. Paris. L. E. K.'

"What do these hieroglyphics mean?"

"That stands for the 'Library of Entertaining Knowledge,'" said Fleda.

"But how is this?--do you go hop, skip, and jump through these books, or
read a little and then throw them away? Here it is only seven days since
you began the second volume of Lacretelle--not time enough to get
through it."

"O no, sir," said Fleda smiling,--"I like to have several books that I am
reading in at once,--I mean--at the same time, you know; and then if I am
not in the mood of one I take up another."

"She reads them all through," said Hugh,--"always, though she reads them
very quick."

"Hum--I understand," said the old doctor with a humorous expression, going
on with the list.

'March 3. 3 Hist. de France.'

"But you finish one of these volumes, I suppose, before you begin another;
or do you dip into different parts of the same work at once?"

"O no, sir;--of course not!"

'Mar. 5. Modern Egyptians. L. E. K. Ap. 13.'

"What are these dates on the right as well as on the left?"

"Those on the right shew when I finished the volume."

"Well I wonder what you were cut out for?" said the doctor. "A
Quaker!--you aren't a Quaker, are you?"

"No sir," said Fleda laughing.

"You look like it," said he.

'Feb. 24. Five Penny Magazines, finished Mar. 4,'

"They are in paper numbers, you know, sir."

'April 4. 4 Hist. de F.'

"Let us see--the third volume was finished March 29--I declare you keep
it up pretty well."

'Ap. 19. Incidents of Travel'

"Whose is that?"

"It is by Mr. Stephens."

"How did you like it?"

"O very much indeed."

"Ay, I see you did; you finished it by the first of May. 'Tour to the
Hebrides'--what? Johnson's?"

"Yes sir."

"Read it all fairly through?"

"Yes sir, certainly."

He smiled and went on.

'May 12. Peter Simple!'

There was quite a shout at the heterogeneous character of Fleda's reading,
which she, not knowing exactly what to make of it, heard rather abashed.

"' Peter Simple'!" said the doctor, settling himself to go on with his
list;--"well, let us see.--' World without Souls.' Why you Elf! read in
two days."

"It is very short, you know, sir."

"What did you think of it?"

"I liked parts of it very much."

He went on, still smiling.

'June 15. Goldsmith's Animated Nature.'

'June 18. 1 Life of Washington.'

"What Life of Washington?"


"Hum.--'July 9. 2 Goldsmith's An. Na.' As I live, begun the very day the
first volume was finished, did you read the whole of that?"

"O yes, sir. I liked that book very much."

'4 July 12. 5 Hist, de France.'

"Two histories on hand at once! Out of all rule, Miss Fleda! We must look
after you."

"Yes sir; sometimes I wanted to read one, and sometimes I wanted to read
the other."

"And you always do what you want to do, I suppose?"

"I think the reading does me more good in that way."

'July 15. Paley's Natural Theology!'

There was another shout. Poor Fleda's eyes filled with tears.

"What in the world put that book into your head, or before your eyes?"
said the doctor.

"I don't know, sir,--I thought I should like to read it," said Fleda,
drooping her eyelids that the bright drops under them might not be seen.

"And finished in eleven days, as I live!" said the doctor wagging his
head. 'July 19. 3 Goldsmith's A. N.' 'Aug. 6. 4 Do. Do.'"

"That is one of Fleda's favourite books," put in Hugh.

"So it seems. '6 Hist. de France.'--What does this little cross mean?"

"That shews when the book is finished," said Fleda, looking on the
page,--"the last volume, I mean."

"'Retrospect of Western Travel'--'Goldsmith's A. N., last vol.'--'Memoirs
de Sully'--in the French?"

"Yes sir."

"'Life of Newton'--What's this?--'Sep. 8. 1 Fairy Queen!'--not

"Yes sir, I believe so--the Fairy Queen, in five volumes."

The doctor looked up comically at his niece and her husband, who were both
sitting or standing close by.

"'Sep. 10. Paolo e Virginia.'--In what language?"

"Italian, sir; I was just beginning, and I haven't finished it yet."

"'Sep. 16. Milner's Church History'!--What the deuce!--'Vol. 2. Fairy
Queen.'--Why this must have been a favourite book too."

"That's one of the books Fleda loves best," said Hugh;--"she went through
that very fast."

"_Over_ it, you mean, I reckon; how much did you skip, Fleda?"

"I didn't skip at all," said Fleda; "I read every word of it."

"'Sep. 20. 2 Mem. de Sully.'--Well, you're an industrious mouse, I'll say
that for you.--What's this--'Don Quixotte!'--'Life of Howard.'--'Nov. 17.
3 Fairy Queen.'--'Nov. 29. 4 Fairy Queen.'--'Dec. 8. 1 Goldsmith's
England.'--Well if this list of books is a fair exhibit of your taste and
capacity, you have a most happily proportioned set of intellectuals. Let
us see--History, fun, facts, nature, theology, poetry and divinity!--upon
my soul!--and poetry and history the leading features!--a little fun,--as
much as you could lay your hand on I'll warrant, by that pinch in the
corner of your eye. And here, the eleventh of December, you finished the
Fairy Queen;--and ever since, I suppose, you have been imagining yourself
the 'faire Una,' with Hugh standing for Prince Arthur or the Red-cross
knight,--haven't you?"

"No sir. I didn't imagine anything about it."

"Don't tell me! What did you read it for?"

"Only because I liked it, sir. I liked it better than any other book I
read last year."

"You did! Well, the year ends, I see, with another volume of Sully. I
won't enter upon this year's list. Pray how much of all these volumes do
you suppose you remember? I'll try and find out, next time I come to see
you. I can give a guess, if you study with that little pug in your lap."

"He is not a pug!" said Fleda, in whose arms King was lying
luxuriously,--"and he never gets into my lap besides."

[Illustration: "He is not a pug."]

"Don't he! Why not?"

"Because I don't like it, sir. I don't like to see dogs in laps."

"But all the ladies in the land do it, you little Saxon! it is universally
considered a mark of distinction."

"I can't help what all the ladies in the land do," said Fleda. "That won't
alter my liking, and I don't think a lady's lap is a place for a dog."

"I wish you were _my_ daughter!" said the old doctor, shaking his head
at her with a comic fierce expression of countenance, which Fleda
perfectly understood and laughed at accordingly. Then as the two
children with the dog went off into the other room, he said, turning to
his niece and Mr. Rossitur,

"If that girl ever takes a wrong turn with the bit in her teeth, you'll be
puzzled to hold her. What stuff will you make the reins of?"

"I don't think she ever will take a wrong turn," said Mr. Rossitur.

"A look is enough to manage her, if she did," said his wife. "Hugh is not
more gentle."

"I should be inclined rather to fear her not having stability of character
enough," said Mr. Rossitur. "She is so very meek and yielding, I almost
doubt whether anything would give her courage to take ground of her own
and keep it."

"Hum------well, well!" said the old doctor, walking off after the
children. "Prince Arthur, will you bring this damsel up to my den some of
these days?--the 'faire Una' is safe from the wild beasts, you know;--and
I'll shew her books enough to build herself a house with, if she likes."

The acceptance of this invitation led to some of the pleasantest hours of
Fleda's city life. The visits to the great library became very frequent.
Dr. Gregory and the children were little while in growing fond of each
other; he loved to see them and taught them to come at such times as the
library was free of visitors and his hands of engagements. Then he
delighted himself with giving them pleasure, especially Fleda, whose quick
curiosity and intelligence were a constant amusement to him. He would
establish the children in some corner of the large apartments, out of the
way behind a screen of books and tables; and there shut out from the world
they would enjoy a kind of fairyland pleasure over some volume or set of
engravings that they could not see at home. Hours and hours were spent so.
Fleda would stand clasping her hands before Audubon, or rapt over a finely
illustrated book of travels, or going through and through with Hugh the
works of the best masters of the pencil and the graver. The doctor found
he could trust them, and then all the treasures of the library were at
their disposal. Very often he put chosen pieces of reading into their
hands; and it was pleasantest of all when he was not busy and came and sat
down with them; for with all his odd manner he was extremely kind and
could and did put them in the way to profit greatly by their
opportunities. The doctor and the children had nice times there together.

They lasted for many months, and grew more and more worth. Mr. Schweden
carried off Marion, as Fleda had foreseen he would, before the end of
spring; and after she was gone something like the old pleasant Paris life
was taken up again. They had no more company now than was agreeable, and
it was picked not to suit Marion's taste but her father's,--a very
different matter. Fleda and Hugh were not forbidden the dinner-table, and
so had the good of hearing much useful conversation from which the former,
according to custom, made her steady precious gleanings. The pleasant
evenings in the family were still better enjoyed than they used to he;
Fleda was older; and the snug handsome American house had a home-feeling
to her that the wide Parisian saloons never knew. She had become bound to
her uncle and aunt by all but the ties of blood; nobody in the house ever
remembered that she was not born their daughter; except indeed Fleda
herself, who remembered everything, and with whom the forming of any new
affections or relations somehow never blotted out or even faded the
register of the old. It lived in all its brightness; the writing of past
loves and friendships was as plain as ever in her heart; and often, often,
the eye and the kiss of memory fell upon it. In the secret of her heart's
core; for still, as at the first, no one had a suspicion of the movings of
thought that were beneath that childish brow. No one guessed how clear a
judgment weighed and decided upon many things. No one dreamed, amid their
busy, hustling, thoughtless life, how often, in the street, in her bed, in
company and alone, her mother's last prayer was in Fleda's heart; well
cherished; never forgotten.

Her education and Hugh's meanwhile went on after the old fashion. If Mr.
Rossitur had more time he seemed to have no more thought for the matter;
and Mrs. Rossitur, fine-natured as she was, had never been trained to
self-exertion, and of course was entirely out of the way of training
others. Her children were pieces of perfection, and needed no oversight;
her house was a piece of perfection too. If either had not been, Mrs.
Rossitur would have been utterly at a loss how to mend matters,--except in
the latter instance by getting a new housekeeper; and as Mrs. Renney, the
good woman who held that station, was in everybody's opinion another
treasure, Mrs. Rossitur's mind was uncrossed by the shadow of such a
dilemma. With Mrs. Renney as with every one else Fleda was held in highest
regard; always welcome to her premises and to those mysteries of her trade
which were sacred from other intrusion.

Fleda's natural inquisitiveness carried her often to the housekeeper's
room, and made her there the same curious and careful observer that she
had been in the library or at the Louvre.

"Come," said Hugh one day when he had sought and found her in Mrs.
Renney's precincts,--"come away, Fleda! What do you want to stand here and
see Mrs. Renney roll butter and sugar for?"

"My dear Mr. Rossitur!" said Fleda,--"you don't understand quelquechoses.
How do you know but I may have to get my living by making them, some day."

"By making what?" said Hugh.

"Quelquechoses,--anglice, kickshaws,--alias, sweet trifles denominated

"Pshaw, Fleda!"

"Miss Fleda is more likely to get her living by eating them, Mr. Hugh,
isn't she?" said the housekeeper.

"I hope to decline both lines of life," said Fleda laughingly as she
followed Hugh out of the room. But her chance remark had grazed the truth
sufficiently near.

Those years in New York were a happy time for little Fleda, a time when
mind and body flourished under the sun of prosperity. Luxury did not spoil
her; and any one that saw her in the soft furs of her winter wrappings
would have said that delicate cheek and frame were never made to know the
unkindliness of harsher things.

Chapter XVI.

Whereunto is money good?
Who has it not wants hardihood,
Who has it has much trouble and care,
Who once has had it has despair.

Longfellow. _From the German_.

It was the middle of winter. One day Hugh and Fleda had come home from
their walk. They dashed into the parlour, complaining that it was bitterly
cold, and began unrobing before the glowing grate, which was a mass of
living fire from end to end. Mrs. Rossitur was there in an easy chair,
alone and doing nothing. That was not a thing absolutely unheard of, but
Fleda had not pulled off her second glove before she bent down towards her
and in a changed tone tenderly asked if she did not feel well?

Mrs. Rossitur looked up in her face a minute, and then drawing her down
kissed the blooming cheeks one and the other several times. But as she
looked off to the fire again Fleda saw that it was through watering eyes.
She dropped on her knees by the side of the easy chair that she might have
a better sight of that face, and tried to read it as she asked again what
was the matter; and Hugh coming to the other side repeated her question.
His mother passed an arm round each, looking wistfully from one to the
other and kissing them earnestly, but she said only, with a very
heart-felt emphasis, "Poor children!"

Fleda was now afraid to speak, but Hugh pressed his inquiry.

"Why 'poor' mamma? what makes you say so?"

"Because you are poor really, dear Hugh. We have lost everything we have
in the world."

"Mamma! What do you mean?"

"Your father has failed."

"Failed!--But, mamma, I thought he wasn't in business?"

"So I thought," said Mrs. Rossitur;--"I didn't know people could fail
that were not in business; but it seems they can. He was a partner in
some concern or other, and it's all broken to pieces, and your father
with it, he says."

Mrs. Rossitur's face was distressful. They were all silent for a little;
Hugh kissing his mother's wet cheeks. Fleda had softly nestled her head in
her bosom. But Mrs. Rossitur soon recovered herself.

"How bad is it, mother?" said Hugh.

"As bad as can possibly be."

"Is _everything_ gone?"


"You don't mean the house, mamma?"

"The house, and all that is in it."

The children's hearts were struck, and they were silent again, only
a trembling touch of Fleda's lips spoke sympathy and patience if
ever a kiss did.

"But mamma," said Hugh, after he had gathered breath for it,--"do you
mean to say that _everything_, literally _everything_, is gone? is there
nothing left?"

"Nothing in the world--not a sou."

"Then what are we going to do?"

Mrs. Rossitur shook her head, and had no words.

Fleda _looked_ across to Hugh to ask no more, and putting her arms
round her aunt's neck and laying cheek to cheek, she spoke what comfort
she could.

"Don't, dear aunt Lucy!--there will be some way--things always turn out
better than at first--I dare say we shall find out it isn't so bad by and
by. Don't you mind it, and then we won't. We can be happy anywhere

If there was not much in the reasoning there was something in the tone of
the words to bid Mrs. Rossitur bear herself well. Its tremulous sweetness,
its anxious love, was without a taint of self-recollection; its sorrow was
for _her_. Mrs. Rossitur felt that she must not shew herself overcome. She
again kissed and blessed and pressed closer in her arms her little
comforter, while her other hand was given to Hugh.

"I have only heard about it this morning. Your uncle was here telling me
just now,--a little while before you came. Don't say anything about it
before him."

Why not? The words struck Fleda disagreeably.

"What will be done with the house, mamma?" said Hugh.

"Sold--sold, and everything in it."

"Papa's books, mamma! and all the things in the library!" exclaimed Hugh,
looking terrified.

Mrs. Rossitur's face gave the answer; do it in words she could not.

The children were a long time silent, trying hard to swallow this bitter
pill; and still Hugh's hand was in his mother's and Fleda's head lay on
her bosom. Thought was busy, going up and down, and breaking the
companionship they had so long held with the pleasant drawing-room and the
tasteful arrangements among which Fleda was so much at home;--the easy
chairs in whose comfortable arms she had had so many an hour of nice
reading; the soft rug where in the very wantonness of frolic she had
stretched herself to play with King; that very luxurious, bright grateful
of fire, which had given her so often the same warm welcome home, an apt
introduction to the other stores of comfort which awaited her above and
below stairs; the rich-coloured curtains and carpet, the beauty of which
had been such a constant gratification to Fleda's eye; and the exquisite
French table and lamps they had brought out with them, in which her uncle
and aunt had so much pride and which could nowhere be matched for
elegance;--they must all be said 'good-bye' to; and as yet fancy had
nothing to furnish the future with; it looked very bare.

King had come in and wagged himself up close to his mistress, but even he
could obtain nothing but the touch of most abstracted finger ends. Yet,
though keenly recognized, these thoughts were only passing compared with
the anxious and sorrowful ones that went to her aunt and uncle; for Hugh
and her, she judged, it was less matter. And Mrs. Rossitur's care was most
for her husband; and Hugh's was for them all. His associations were less
quick and his tastes less keen than Fleda's and less a part of himself.
Hugh lived in his affections; with a salvo to them, he could bear to lose
anything and go anywhere.

"Mamma," said he after a long time,--"will anything be done with
Fleda's books?"

A question that had been in Fleda's mind before, but which she had
patiently forborne just then to ask.

"No indeed!" said Mrs. Rossitur, pressing Fleda more closely and kissing
in a kind of rapture the sweet thoughtful face;--"not yours, my darling;
they can't touch anything that belongs to you--I wish it was more--and I
don't suppose they will take anything of mine either."

"Ah, well!" said Fleda raising her head, "you have got quite a parcel of
books, aunt Lucy, and I have a good many--how well it is I have had so
many given me since I have been here!--That will make quite a nice little
library, both together, and Hugh has some; I thought perhaps we shouldn't
have one at all left, and that would have been rather bad."

'Rather bad'! Mrs. Rossitur looked at her, and was dumb.

"Only don't you wear a sad face for anything!" Fleda went on
earnestly;--"we shall be perfectly happy if you and uncle Rolf only will

"My dear children!" said Mrs. Rossitur wiping her eyes,--"it is for you I
am unhappy--you and your uncle;--I do not think of myself."

"And we do not think of ourselves, mamma," said Hugh.

"I know it--but having good children don't make one care less about them,"
said Mrs. Rossitur, the tears fairly raining over her fingers.

Hugh pulled the fingers down and again tried the efficacy of his lips.

"And you know papa thinks most of you, mamma."

"Ah, your father!"--said Mrs. Rossitur shaking her head,--"I am afraid it
will go hard with him!--But I will be happy as long as I have you two, or
else I should be a very wicked woman. It only grieves me to think of your
education and prospects--"

"Fleda's piano, mamma!" said Hugh with sudden dismay.

Mrs. Rossitur shook her head again and covered her eyes, while Fleda
stretching across to Hugh gave him by look and touch an earnest admonition
to let that subject alone. And then with a sweetness and gentleness like
nothing but the breath of the south wind, she wooed her aunt to hope and
resignation. Hugh held back, feeling, or thinking, that Fleda could do it
better than he, and watching her progress, as Mrs. Rossitur took her hand
from her face, and smiled, at first mournfully and then really mirthfully
in Fleda's face, at some sally that nobody but a nice observer would have
seen was got up for the occasion. And it was hardly that, so completely
had the child forgotten her own sorrow in ministering to that of another.
"Blessed are the peacemakers"! It is always so.

"You are a witch or a fairy," said Mrs. Rossitur, catching her again in
her arms,--"nothing else! You must try your powers of charming upon
your uncle."

Fleda laughed, without any effort; but as to trying her slight wand upon
Mr. Rossitur she had serious doubts. And the doubts became certainty when
they met at dinner; he looked so grave that she dared not attack him. It
was a gloomy meal, for the face that should have lighted the whole table
cast a shadow there.

Without at all comprehending the whole of her husband's character the sure
magnetism of affection had enabled Mrs. Rossitur to divine his thoughts.
Pride was his ruling passion; not such pride as Mr. Carleton's, which was
rather like exaggerated self-respect, but wider and more indiscriminate in
its choice of objects. It was pride in his family name; pride in his own
talents, which were considerable; pride in his family, wife and children
and all of which he thought did him honour,--if they had not his love for
them assuredly would have known some diminishing; pride in his wealth and
in the attractions with which it surrounded him; and lastly, pride in the
skill, taste and connoisseurship which enabled him to bring those
attractions together. Furthermore, his love for both literature and art
was true and strong; and for many years he had accustomed himself to lead
a life of great luxuriousness; catering for body and mind in every taste
that could be elegantly enjoyed; and again proud of the elegance of every
enjoyment. The change of circumstances which touched his pride wounded him
at every point where he was vulnerable at all.

Fleda had never felt so afraid of him. She was glad to see Dr. Gregory
come in to tea. Mr. Rossitur was not there. The doctor did not touch upon
affairs, if he had heard of their misfortune; he went on as usual in a
rambling cheerful way all tea-time, talking mostly to Fleda and Hugh. But
after tea he talked no more but sat still and waited till the master of
the house came in.

Fleda thought Mr. Rossitur did not look glad to see him. But how could he
look glad about anything? He did not sit down, and for a few minutes there
was a kind of meaning silence. Fleda sat in the corner with the heartache,
to see her uncle's gloomy tramp up and down the rich apartment, and her
aunt Lucy gaze at him.

"Humph!--well--So!" said the doctor at last,--"You've all gone overboard
with a smash, I understand?"

The walker gave him no regard.

"True, is it?" said the doctor.

Mr. Rossitur made no answer, unless a smothered grunt might be
taken for one.

"How came it about?"

"Folly and Devilry."

"Humph!--bad capital to work upon. I hope the principal is gone with the
interest. What's the amount of your loss?"


"Humph.--French ruin, or American ruin? because there's a difference. What
do you mean?"

"I am not so happy as to understand you sir, but we shall not pay seventy
cents on the dollar."

The old gentleman got up and stood before the fire with his back to Mr.
Rossitur, saying "that was rather bad."

"What are you going to do?"

Mr. Rossitur hesitated a few moments for an answer and then said,

"Pay the seventy cents and begin the world anew with nothing."

"Of course!" said the doctor. "I understand that; but where and how? What
end of the world will you take up first?"

Mr. Rossitur writhed in impatience or disgust, and after again hesitating
answered dryly that he had not determined.

"Have you thought of anything in particular?"

"Zounds! no sir, except my misfortune. That's enough for one day."

"And too much," said the old doctor, "unless you can mix some other
thought with it. That's what I came for. Will you go into business?"

Fleda was startled by the vehemence with which her uncle said, "No,
never!"--and he presently added, "I'll do nothing here."

"Well,--well," said the doctor to himself;--"Will you go into the

"Yes!--anywhere!--the further the better."

Mrs. Rossitur startled, but her husband's face did not encourage her to
open her lips.

"Ay but on a farm, I mean?"

"On anything, that will give me a standing."

"I thought that too," said Dr. Gregory, now whirling about. "I have a fine
piece of land that wants a tenant. You may take it at an easy rate, and
pay me when the crops come in. I shouldn't expect so young a farmer, you
know, to keep any closer terms."

"How far is it?"

"Far enough--up in Wyandot County."

"How large?"

"A matter of two or three hundred acres or so. It is very fine, they say.
It came into a fellow's hands that owed me what I thought was a bad debt,
so for fear he would never pay me I thought best to take it and pay him;
whether the place will ever fill my pockets again remains to be seen;
doubtful, I think."

"I'll take it, Dr. Gregory, and see if I cannot bring that about."

"Pooh, pooh! fill your own. I am not careful about it; the less money one
has the more it jingles, unless it gets _too_ low indeed."

"I will take it, Dr. Gregory, and feel myself under obligation to you."

"No, I told you, not till the crops come in. No obligation is binding till
the term is up. Well, I'll see you further about it."

"But Rolf!" said Mrs. Rossitur,--"stop a minute, uncle, don't go
yet,--Rolf don't know anything in the world about the management of a
farm, neither do I."

"The 'faire Una' can enlighten you," said the doctor, waving his hand
towards his little favourite in the corner,--"but I forgot!--Well, if you
don't know, the crops won't come in--that's all the difference."

But Mrs. Rossitur looked anxiously at her husband. "Do you know exactly
what you are undertaking, Rolf?" she said.

"If I do not, I presume I shall discover in time."

"But it may be too late," said Mrs Rossitur, in the tone of sad
remonstrance that had gone all the length it dared.

"It _can not_ be too late!" said her husband impatiently. "If I do not
know what I am taking up, I know very well what I am laying down; and it
does not signify a straw what comes after--if it was a snail-shell, that
would cover my head!"

"Hum--" said the old doctor,--"the snail is very well in his way, but I
have no idea that he was ever cut out for a farmer."

"Do you think you will find it a business you would like, Mr. Rossitur?"
said his wife timidly.

"I tell you," said he facing about, "it is not a question of liking. I
will like anything that will bury me out of the world!"

Poor Mrs. Rossitur. She had not yet come to wishing herself buried alive,
and she had small faith in the permanence of her husband's taste for it.
She looked desponding.

"You don't suppose," said Mr. Rossitur stopping again in the middle of the
floor after another turn and a half,--"you do not suppose that I am going
to take the labouring of the farm upon myself? I shall employ some one of
course, who understands the matter, to take all that off my hands."

The doctor thought of the old proverb and the alternative the plough
presents to those who would thrive by it; Fleda thought of Mr. Didenhover;
Mrs. Rossitur would fain have suggested that such an important person must
be well paid; but neither of them spoke.

"Of course," said Mr. Rossitur haughtily as he went on with his walk, "I
do not expect any more than you to live in the back-woods the life we have
been leading here. That is at an end."

"Is it a very wild country?" asked Mrs. Rossitur of the doctor.

"No wild beasts, my dear, if that is your meaning,--and I do not suppose
there are even many snakes left by this time."

"No, but dear uncle, I mean, is it in an unsettled state?"

"No my dear, not at all,--perfectly quiet."

"Ah but do not play with me," exclaimed poor Mrs. Rossitur between
laughing and crying;--"I mean is it far from any town and not among

"Far enough to be out of the way of morning calls," said the doctor;--"and
when your neighbours come to see you they will expect tea by four o'clock.
There are not a great many near by, but they don't mind coming from five
or six miles off."

Mrs. Rossitur looked chilled and horrified. To her he had described a very
wild country indeed. Fleda would have laughed if it had not been for her
aunt's face; but that settled down into a doubtful anxious look that
pained her. It pained the old doctor too.

"Come," said he touching her pretty chin with his forefinger,--"what are
you thinking of? folks may be good folks and yet have tea at four o'clock,
mayn't they?"

"When do they have dinner!" said Mrs. Rossitur.

"I really don't know. When you get settled up there I'll come and see."

"Hardly," said Mrs. Rossitur. "I don't believe it would be possible for
Emile to get dinner before the tea-time; and I am sure I shouldn't like to
propose such a thing to Mrs. Renney."

The doctor fidgeted about a little on the hearth-rug and looked comical,
perfectly understood by one acute observer in the corner.

"Are you wise enough to imagine, Lucy," said Mr. Rossitur sternly, "that
you can carry your whole establishment with you? What do you suppose Emile
and Mrs. Renney would do in a farmhouse?"

"I can do without whatever you can," said Mrs. Rossitur meekly. "I did not
know that you would be willing to part with Emile, and I do not think Mrs.
Renney would like to leave us."

"I told you before, it is no more a question of liking," answered he.

"And if it were," said the doctor, "I have no idea that Monsieur Emile and
Madame Renney would be satisfied with the style of a country kitchen, or
think the interior of Yankee land a hopeful sphere for their energies."

"What sort of a house is it?" said Mrs. Rossitur.

"A wooden frame house, I believe."

"No but, dear uncle, do tell me."

"What sort of a house?--Humph--Large enough, I am told. It will
accommodate you, in one way."


"I don't know," said the doctor shaking his head;--"depends on who's in
it. No house is that per se. But I reckon there isn't much plate glass. I
suppose you'll find the doors all painted blue, and every fireplace with a
crane in it."

"A crane!" said Mrs. Rossitur, to whose imagination the word suggested
nothing but a large water-bird with a long neck.

"Ay!" said the doctor. "But it's just as well. You won't want hanging
lamps there,--and candelabra would hardly be in place either, to hold
tallow candles."

"Tallow candles!" exclaimed Mrs. Rossitur. Her husband winced, but
said nothing.

"Ay," said the doctor again,--"and make them yourself if you are a good
housewife. Come, Lucy," said he taking her hand, "do you know how the
wild fowl do on the Chesapeake?--duck and swim under water till they
can shew their heads with safety? O spoil your eyes to see by a
tallow candle."

Mrs. Rossitur half smiled, but looked anxiously towards her husband.

"Pooh, pooh! Rolf won't care what the light burns that lights him to
independence,--and when you get there you may illuminate with a whole
whale if you like. By the way, Rolf, there is a fine water power up
yonder, and a saw-mill in good order, they tell me, but a short way from
the house. Hugh might learn to manage it, and it would be fine
employment for him."

"Hugh!" said his mother disconsolately. Mr. Rossitur neither spoke nor
looked an answer. Fleda sprang forward.

"A saw-mill!--Uncle Orrin!--where is it?"

"Just a little way from the house, they say. _You_ can't manage it, fair
Saxon!--though you look as if you would undertake all the mills in
creation, for a trifle."

"No but the place, uncle Orrin;--where is the place?"

"The place? Hum--why it's up in Wyandot County--some five or six miles
from the Montepoole Spring--what's this they call it?--Queechy!--By the
way!" said he, reading Fleda's countenance, "it is the very place where
your father was born!--it is! I didn't think of that before."

Fleda's hands were clasped.

"O I am very glad!" she said. "It's my old home. It is the most lovely
place, aunt Lucy!--most lovely--and we shall have some good neighbours
there too. O I am very glad!--The dear old saw-mill!--"

"Dear old saw-mill!" said the doctor looking at her. "Rolf, I'll tell you
what, you shall give me this girl. I want her. I can take better care of
her, perhaps, now than you can. Let her come to me when you leave the
city--it will be better for her than to help work the saw-mill; and I
have as good a right to her as anybody, for Amy before her was like my
own child."

The doctor spoke not with his usual light jesting manner but very
seriously. Hugh's lips parted,--Mrs. Rossitur looked with a sad thoughtful
look at Fleda,--Mr. Rossitur walked up and down looking at nobody. Fleda
watched him.

"What does Fleda herself say?" said he stopping short suddenly. His face
softened and his eye changed as it fell upon her, for the first time that
day. Fleda saw her opening; she came to him, within his arms, and laid her
head upon his breast.

"What does Fleda say?" said he, softly kissing her.

Fleda's tears said a good deal, that needed no interpreter. She felt her
uncle's hand passed more and more tenderly over her head, so tenderly that
it made it all the more difficult for her to govern herself and stop her
tears. But she did stop them, and looked up at him then with such a
face--so glowing through smiles and tears--it was like a very rainbow of
hope upon the cloud of their prospects. Mr. Rossitur felt the power of the
sunbeam wand, it reached his heart; it was even with a smile that he said
as he looked at her,

"Will you go to your uncle Orrin, Fleda?"

"Not if uncle Rolf will keep me."

"Keep you!" said Mr. Rossitur;--"I should like to see who wouldn't keep
you!--There, Dr. Gregory, you have your answer."

"Hum!--I might have known," said the doctor, "that the 'faire Una' would
abjure cities.--Come here, you Elf!"--and he wrapped her in his arms so
tight she could not stir,--"I have a spite against you for this. What
amends will you make me for such an affront?"

"Let me take breath," said Fleda laughing, "and I'll tell you. You don't
want any amends, uncle Orrin."

"Well," said he, gazing with more feeling than he cared to shew into that
sweet face, so innocent of apology-making,--"you shall promise me that you
will not forget uncle Orrin and the old house in Bleecker street."

Fleda's eyes grew more wistful.

"And will you promise me that if ever you want anything you will come or
send straight there?"

"If ever I want anything I can't get nor do without," said Fleda.

"Pshaw!" said the doctor letting her go, but laughing at the same time.
"Mind my words, Mr. and Mrs. Rossitur;--if ever that girl takes the wrong
bit in her mouth--Well, well! I'll go home."

Home he went. The rest drew together particularly near, round the fire;
Hugh at his father's shoulder, and Fleda kneeling on the rug between her
uncle and aunt with a hand on each; and there was not one of them whose
gloom was not lightened by her bright face and cheerful words of hope that
in the new scenes they were going to, "they would all be so happy."

The days that followed were gloomy; but Fleda's ministry was unceasing.
Hugh seconded her well, though more passively. Feeling less pain himself,
he perhaps for that very reason was less acutely alive to it in others;
not so quick to foresee and ward off, not so skilful to allay it. Fleda
seemed to have intuition for the one and a charm for the other. To her
there was pain in every parting; her sympathies clung to whatever wore
the livery of habit. There was hardly any piece of furniture, there was
no book or marble or picture, that she could take leave of without a
pang. But it was kept to herself; her sorrowful good-byes were said in
secret; before others, in all those weeks she was a very Euphrosyne;
light, bright, cheerful, of eye and foot and hand; a shield between her
aunt and every annoyance that _she_ could take instead; a good little
fairy, that sent her sunbeam wand, quick as a flash, where any eye rested
gloomily. People did not always find out where the light came from, but
it was her witchery.

The creditors would touch none of Mrs. Rossitur's things, her husband's
honourable behaviour had been so thorough. They even presented him with
one or two pictures which he sold for a considerable sum; and to Mrs.
Rossitur they gave up all the plate in daily use; a matter of great
rejoicing to Fleda who knew well how sorely it would have been missed. She
and her aunt had quite a little library too, of their own private store; a
little one it was indeed, but the worth of every volume was now trebled in
her eyes. Their furniture was all left behind; and in its stead went some
of neat light painted wood which looked to Fleda deliciously countryfied.
A promising cook and housemaid were engaged to go with them to the wilds;
and about the first of April they turned their backs upon the city.

Chapter XVII

The thresher's weary flingin-tree
The lee-lang day had tired me:
And whan the day bad closed his e'e,
Far i' the west,
Ben i' the spence, right pensivelie,
I 'gaed to rest.


Queechy was reached at night. Fleda had promised herself to be off almost
with the dawn of light the next morning to see aunt Miriam, but a heavy
rain kept her fast at home the whole day. It was very well; she was
wanted there.

Despite the rain and her disappointment it was impossible for Fleda to lie
abed from the time the first grey light began to break in at her
windows,--those old windows that had rattled their welcome to her all
night. She was up and dressed and had had a long consultation with herself
over matters and prospects, before anybody else had thought of leaving the
indubitable comfort of a feather bed for the doubtful contingency of
happiness that awaited them down stairs. Fleda took in the whole length
and breadth of it, half wittingly and half through some finer sense than
that of the understanding.

The first view of things could not strike them pleasantly; it was not to
be looked for. The doors did not happen to be painted blue; they were a
deep chocolate colour; doors and wainscot. The fireplaces were not all
furnished with cranes, but they were all uncouthly wide and deep. Nobody
would have thought them so indeed in the winter, when piled up with
blazing hickory logs, but in summer they yawned uncomfortably upon the
eye. The ceilings were low; the walls rough papered or rougher
white-washed; the sashes not hung; the rooms, otherwise well enough
proportioned, stuck with little cupboards, in recesses and corners and out
of the way places, in a style impertinently suggestive of housekeeping,
and fitted to shock any symmetrical set of nerves. The old house had
undergone a thorough putting in order, it is true; the chocolate paint was
just dry, and the paper hangings freshly put up; and the bulk of the new
furniture had been sent on before and unpacked, though not a single
article of it was in its right place. The house was clean and tight, that
is, as tight as it ever was. But the colour had been unfortunately
chosen--perhaps there was no help for that;--the paper was _very_ coarse
and countryfied; the big windows were startling, they looked so bare,
without any manner of drapery; and the long reaches of wall were unbroken
by mirror or picture-frame. And this to eyes trained to eschew
ungracefulness and that abhorred a vacuum as much as nature is said to do!
Even Fleda felt there was something disagreeable in the change, though it
reached her more through the channel of other people's sensitiveness than
her own. To her it was the dear old house still, though her eyes had seen
better things since they loved it. No corner or recess had a pleasanter
filling, to her fancy, than the old brown cupboard or shelves which had
always been there. But what _would_ her uncle say to them! and to that
dismal paper! and what would aunt Lucy think of those rattling window
sashes! this cool raw day too, for the first!--

Think as she might Fleda did not stand still to think. She had gone softly
all over the house, taking a strange look at the old places and the images
with which memory filled them, thinking of the last time, and many a time
before that;--and she had at last come back to the sitting-room, long
before anybody else was down stairs; the two tired servants were just
rubbing their eyes open in the kitchen and speculating themselves awake.
Leaving them, at their peril, to get ready a decent breakfast, (by the way
she grudged them the old kitchen) Fleda set about trying what her wand
could do towards brightening the face of affairs in the other part of the
house. It was quite cold enough for a fire, luckily. She ordered one made,
and meanwhile busied herself with the various stray packages and articles
of wearing apparel that lay scattered about giving the whole place a look
of discomfort. Fleda gathered them up and bestowed them in one or two of
the impertinent cupboards, and then undertook the labour of carrying out
all the wrong furniture that had got into the breakfast-room and bringing
in that which really belonged there from the hall and the parlour beyond;
moving like a mouse that she might not disturb the people up stairs. A
quarter of an hour was spent in arranging to the best advantage these
various pieces of furniture in the room; it was the very same in which Mr.
Carleton and Charlton Rossitur had been received the memorable day of the
roast pig dinner, but that was not the uppermost association in Fleda's
mind. Satisfied at last that a happier effect could not be produced with
the given materials, and well pleased too with her success, Fleda turned
to the fire. It was made, but not by any means doing its part to encourage
the other portions of the room to look their best. Fleda knew something of
wood fires from old times; she laid hold of the tongs, and touched and
loosened and coaxed a stick here and there, with a delicate hand, till,
seeing the very opening it had wanted,--without which neither fire nor
hope can keep its activity,--the blaze sprang up energetically, crackling
through all the piled oak and hickory and driving the smoke clean out of
sight. Fleda had done her work. It would have been a misanthropical person
indeed that could have come into the room then and not felt his face
brighten. One other thing remained,--setting the breakfast table; and
Fleda would let no hands but hers do it this morning; she was curious
about the setting of tables. How she remembered or divined where
everything had been stowed; how quietly and efficiently her little fingers
unfastened hampers and pried into baskets, without making any noise; till
all the breakfast paraphernalia of silver, china, and table-linen was
found, gathered from various receptacles, and laid in most exquisite order
on the table. State street never saw better. Fleda stood and looked at it
then, in immense satisfaction, seeing that her uncle's eye would miss
nothing of its accustomed gratification. To her the old room, shining with
firelight and new furniture, was perfectly charming. If those great
windows were staringly bright, health and cheerfulness seemed to look in
at them. And what other images of association, with "nods and becks and
wreathed smiles," looked at her out of the curling flames in the old wide
fireplace! And one other angel stood there unseen,--the one whose errand
it is to see fulfilled the promise, "Give and it shall be given to you;
full measure, and pressed down, and heaped up, and running over."

A little while Fleda sat contentedly eying her work; then a new idea
struck her and she sprang up. In the next meadow, only one fence between,
a little spring of purest water ran through from the woodland; water
cresses used to grow there. Uncle Rolf was very fond of them. It was
pouring with rain, but no matter. Her heart beating between haste and
delight, Fleda slipped her feet into galoches and put an old cloak of
Hugh's over her head, and ran out through the kitchen, the old accustomed
way. The servants exclaimed and entreated, but Fleda only flashed a bright
look at them from under her cloak as she opened the door, and ran off,
over the wet grass, under the fence, and over half the meadow, till she
came to the stream. She was getting a delicious taste of old times, and
though the spring water was very cold and with it and the rain one-half of
each sleeve was soon thoroughly wetted, she gathered her cresses and
scampered back with a pair of eyes and cheeks that might have struck any
city belle chill with envy.

"Then but that's a sweet girl!" said Mary the cook to Jane the housemaid.

"A lovely countenance she has," answered Jane, who was refined in
her speech.

"Take her away and you've taken the best of the house, I'm a thinking."

"Mrs. Rossitur is a lady," said Jane in a low voice.

"Ay, and a very proper-behaved one she is, and him the same, that is, for
a gentleman I maan; but Jane! I say, I'm thinking he'll have eat too much
sour bread lately! I wish I knowed how they'd have their eggs boiled, till
I'd have 'em ready."

"Sure it's on the table itself they'll do 'em," said Jane. "They've an
elegant little fixture in there for the purpose."

"Is that it!"

Nobody found out how busy Fleda's wand had been in the old breakfast room.
But she was not disappointed; she had not worked for praise. Her cresses
were appreciated; that was enough. She enjoyed her breakfast, the only one
of the party that did. Mr. Rossitur looked moody; his wife looked anxious;
and Hugh's face was the reflection of theirs. If Fleda's face reflected
anything it was the sunlight of heaven.

"How sweet the air is after New York!" said she.

They looked at her. There was a fresh sweetness of another kind about that
breakfast-table. They all felt it, and breathed more freely.

"Delicious cresses!" said Mrs. Rossitur.

"Yes, I wonder where they came from," said her husband. "Who got them?"

"I guess Fleda knows," said Hugh.

"They grow in a little stream of spring water over here in the meadow,"
said Fleda demurely.

"Yes, but you don't answer my question," said her uncle, putting his hand
under her chin and smiling at the blushing face he brought round to
view;--"Who got them?"

"I did."

"You have been out in the rain?"

"O Queechy rain don't hurt me, uncle Rolf."

"And don't it wet you either?"

"Yes sir--a little."

"How much?"

"My sleeves,--O I dried them long ago."

"Don't you repeat that experiment, Fleda," said he seriously, but with a
look that was a good reward to her nevertheless.

"It is a raw day!" said Mrs. Rossitur, drawing her shoulders together as
an ill-disposed window sash gave one of its admonitory shakes.

"What little panes of glass for such big windows!" said Hugh.

"But what a pleasant prospect through them," said Fleda,--"look,
Hugh!--worth all the Batteries and Parks in the world."

"In the world!--in New York you mean," said her uncle. "Not better than
the Champs Elysees?"

"Better to me," said Fleda.

"For to-day I must attend to the prospect in-doors," said Mrs. Rossitur.

"Now aunt Lucy," said Fleda, "you are just going to put yourself down in
the corner, in the rocking-chair there, with your book, and make yourself
comfortable; and Hugh and I will see to all these things. Hugh and I and
Mary and Jane,--that makes quite an army of us, and we can do everything
without you, and you must just keep quiet. I'll build you up a fine fire,
and then when I don't know what to do I will come to you for orders.
Uncle Rolf, would you be so good as just to open that box of books in the
hall? because I am afraid Hugh isn't strong enough. I'll take care of
you, aunt Lucy."

Fleda's plans were not entirely carried out, but she contrived pretty well
to take the brunt of the business on her own shoulders. She was as busy as
a bee the whole day. To her all the ins and outs of the house, its
advantages and disadvantages, were much better known than to anybody else;
nothing could be done but by her advice; and more than that, she contrived
by some sweet management to baffle Mrs. Rossitur's desire to spare her,
and to bear the larger half of every burden that should have come upon her
aunt. What she had done in the breakfast room she did or helped to do in
the other parts of the house; she unpacked boxes and put away clothes and
linen, in which Hugh was her excellent helper; she arranged her uncle's
dressing-table with a scrupulosity that left nothing uncared-for;--and the
last thing before tea she and Hugh dived into the book-box to get out some
favourite volumes to lay upon the table in the evening, that the room
might not look to her uncle quite so dismally bare. He had been abroad
notwithstanding the rain near the whole day.

Book of the day: